What's a Greek urn?

Mass spectrometric analysis of a sample of bitumen in an ancient Greek amphora by Russian scientists reveals a precise age for the vessel the MS data having been interpreted using new software designed to extract information on organic compounds. Bacterial degradation of the organic compounds present in ancient bitumen samples can be used to date a sample as older components are more oxidized. "The analysis of ancient bitumen has already revealed much about the transformations that petroleum undergoes over the course of millennia. Thanks to mass spectrometry, we might be able to obtain new information about the goods traffic and trade routes in the ancient world," explains team member Yuri Kostyukevich.